Glossary of Technical
- Bios (pl.
- Sometimes a prologue to a Gospel text will contain traditional
information about the life of the evangelist. The lives are attributed to an
otherwise unknown Dorotheus of Tyre or to Sophronius, the Patriarch of
Jerusalem in the first half of the seventh century.
- Catena (pl.
- Catenae are comments extracted from ecclesiastical writers. The
comments are written into the margin with the author's name abbreviated and a
system of symbols matching the marginal comment to the relevant place in the
- After the fourth century biblical manuscripts begin to exhibit
various systems of capitulation. The numbers appear in the margin next to the
place in the column where the new section begins. Sometimes the new section
will also be designated by the first letter of the first word being placed into
the margin slightly and for the first letter to be enlarged. A table of
chapters may appear before the book.
- Colon (pl.
- Cola are single clauses after which a breath is taken. In order to
facilitate reading, some manuscripts are written colometrically with one colon
per line. A colon was considered to contain between nine and sixteen syllables.
Several bilingual Greek and Latin manuscripts of the Gospels, Acts, and
Epistles have the text arranged colometrically.
- A colophon is an inscription written by a scribe which usually
appears at the end of a manuscript. Colophons include such information as the
name of the scribe who copied the work, remarks about the making of the
manuscript, prayers, and warnings against changing the text. (See examples in
the discussion on scribes.)
- Comma (pl.
- Commata are single phrases after which a breath is taken. A comma
was considered to be less than eight syllables. (See Colon)
- Scholia which are systematically developed in order to elucidate
continuously the entire text, rather than random notes, is considered a
commentary. The commentary is written in the margins and sometimes interspersed
between sections of Scripture. (See Scholium)
- The cursive style was used in Greek antiquity for writing
non-literary, everyday documents, such as letters, accounts, receipts,
petitions, deeds, and the like. Contractions and abbreviations for
high-frequency words were common.
- Glosses are brief explanations of difficult words or phrases written
into the margins of manuscripts or between the lines. Glosses sometimes were
accidentally copied into a new manuscript.
- Hypotheses were brief introductions to books supplying the reader
with information about the author, content of the book, and the circumstances
of its composition.
- A regular system of lessons from the Gospels and Epistles was
developed for worship. In order to help the reader know where to begin and end,
these places were marked in the margin or between the lines of text. Notes
indicating what passages were to be read on which days were sometimes written
in the margin with red ink. Then a list may appear at the end of the codex.
Lectionary manuscripts were developed which tend to exhibit an early type of
- During the ninth century a reform in handwriting occurred from which
was developed a script of small letters in a running hand call minuscule. This
cursive script became popular for the production of books.
- A system for contracting "sacred names" developed among Christian
scribes during the first centuries of Christianity. Eventually there were
fifteen such forms. Explanations for their origin range from a Christian
attempt to follow the model of the Jewish Tetragrammaton (four Hebrew
characters representing the name of God) to an imitation of contractions
representing proper names, titles, names of months, numerals, and formulae
which occur in pre-Christian ostraca (pottery sherds) and inscriptions.
- A papyrus roll which bears writing on both sides is called an
opisthograph. Usually only the inside of the roll, which had horizontal fibers,
was used for writing.
- Ornamentation is the endeavor to beautify a page or column. There
are different methods, namely:
- Initials at the beginning of a book, chapter or paragraph are
enlarged, written in a different color, painted, or intricately designed, e.g.
the letter A as a bird next to a stem.
- Drawing ornamented borders.
- Placement of vignettes before or after sections, books, or
- Monocondylia, playing with letters or letter combinations.
- Illustrations of the contents of the book.
- Pagination in papyri is infrequent and when it does occur it is
often the work of an editor, perhaps a librarian. Consistent pagination began
to occur in codices in the early third century. Many great codices of the
fourth century have no pagination. When pagination is occurs, the numbers
appear in the center of the upper margin or the top outside edge. Some scribes
only numbered the even-numbered pages. Occasionally leaves, not pages, are
numbered. Numeration is also used for the numbering of quires.
- A palimpsest is a parchment manuscript which contained writing but
has been scraped, washed off, smoothed and rewritten upon. Of the 250 uncial
manuscripts of the New Testament known today, 52 are palimpsests. It is only
through the use of modern technology, such as chemical reagents and ultraviolet
light, that the obliterated writing is able to be read.
- This is a dash drawn in the left margin under the line of the text
which finishes a section. In some classical, dramatic texts it serves the
purpose of marking a change in speaker.
- The earliest manuscripts have little punctuation and it only occurs
sporadically before the eighth century.
- Scholium (pl.
- Scholia are interpretative remarks of a teacher placed beside the
text in order to instruct the reader.
- Most of the late manuscripts which have a system of capitulation
also place a summary-heading in the margin which describes the contents of the
chapter. Frequently a red ink is used.
- Uncial is a formal style of handwriting, a "bookhand" which was
characterized by deliberate and carefully executed letters, each one separated
from the others. After the sixth century the style began to deteriorate and the
letters appeared thick and clumsy. E. G. Turner classifies the literary hands
of the first four centuries of the Common Era into three groups: Informal round
hands; Formal round hands (Biblical Majuscule or Uncial; Coptic Uncial); Formal
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